Baseball, Children, coaching, Fun, Parenting, sports

Guys (and Gals), You Are Not Coaching MLB

This may be familiar because I know I have written about baseball before, but some lessons just need to be reinforced.

I love baseball. I have since I was knee high to a grasshopper. I even played and have a crooked finger to prove it. Of course, then, it was playground baseball because girls couldn’t play on organized teams. Showing my age, am I? I did go to all the Little League games that the boys at my school played. Well, most of them. It pretty much depended on who was playing that night. Back then the games were fun. We passed the hat in the stands to support the league and boys may have paid a nominal fee to play. We were out every nice day at the playground or in our back yards honing our craft or just plain having fun.

Fast forward about a half century. Kids still play baseball, but how much of it is behind a video screen in between Fortnite games? Neighborhood playgrounds are a thing of the past for many kids. Homes are air conditioned, and it’s hotter here in the south than it was in Pennsylvania. Now there are opportunities for more advanced players to play competitively on travel teams. That is, if parents are willing to take out second mortgages on their homes and forfeit every weekend to have their kids play. Even recreational games have become more competitive. I’m deep into my third generation of baseball games, and let me tell you, they are no longer as much fun.

Parents (and grandparents!), don’t coach from the stands, please. These young boys and girls are getting instructions from at least one coach. It may be that your advice is better than the coach’s, but you’re not doing him or her any favors by shouting conflicting instructions. Just let your kids play the game and have fun.

I think we would all be honored if our children had the same passions as we do, but reality dictates that doesn’t always happen. I’m guessing that some of you may have had close brushes with MLB fame and have high hopes that your sons might complete that dream. From my half-century of observation, it doesn’t work like that, and instead of seeing dreams being vicariously fulfilled through offspring, many times I saw boys’ self-esteem being crushed by harsh criticism from parents who think their child has more talent than he does. This harshness is not confined to just parents, either. Listening to some coaches berate their teams for losing a game or making errors, or even striking out, tests my willpower to the max that I won’t open my mouth and unleash my inner Mama Bear at them for being such jerks to these young boys. Not that I haven’t done so in my younger, more, um…verbal days, when my own boys played, but let’s just keep that between us, shall we? And don’t get me started on” guest players”. What’s up with that? Bringing in ringers when kids from your own team are riding the bench? Not cool, overachieving Coach.

Relax, parents and coaches! This is not the MLB. Let them play for the love of the game, not for their, or your, own glory. Be proud of your child for who he or she is, not who you think he or she should be. Find something your children enjoy and where they can excel. Maybe your son didn’t inherit your ability or drive for baseball. Maybe he likes basketball better, or soccer, or maybe he inherited his mom’s talent for singing and dancing. Maybe your daughter would rather be on a baseball field than a dance floor. Who cares? Take the time to learn about your children and who they are, not who you want them to be. Encourage them to do the best they can at what they do, but for goodness’ sake, don’t expect more out of them than they are capable of being. Be instructional, maybe a little tough, but not harsh and critical. They will respect you in the future and you will have set an immeasurable standard for them to follow in their own lives.